I am writing to welcome Clive Richardson's articles on dating buildings (starting aj 23.3.00). To anyone concerned with existing buildings, the ability to date them and their components is an essential tool, to enable them to know what type of construction to expect and how to identify anomalies. Dating is also a powerful technique - it can force you to really look at and analyse all the components if you consciously ask yourself their dates.
It is, however, a pity that Richardson has not checked his facts (aj 23.3.00); misleading information on dating can be worse than no information at all. To suggest that the use of rat-trap bond finished in 1854, or a few years after, fails to recognise its occasional use in Arts and Crafts buildings, its use behind tile hanging or its extensive use behind pebble dash. I recollect being told by a general foreman that when he was young, in the 1930s, if he and his mate were in need of money, they would go to Southend for the weekend and build a bungalow - in rat-trap bond. If you come across a pebble dash house dating from between the wars, it is worth checking the thickness of the external walls.
Richardson also ought to know that the Fletton Lodge Estate was not sold until at least the 1980s. He may be only 20 years out, but they were an important 20 years, when a huge number of buildings of all types were being built. Other accurate starting and finishing dates are mathematical tiles which carried on in some forms until 1900, dense concrete blocks were used between the wars, and even earlier, and it is simply not correct to suggest that sand-lime bricks are always off-white.
It is a pity that the first of these potentially exceedingly useful articles was spoiled by inaccuracy. I hope that the other two were checked more carefully.
Lawrance Hurst, Hurst Peirce & Malcolm, London WC1